February 22, 2010

Dangerous shower curtains and shower heads

Early morning showers may perk you up to start the day on an enthusiastic note, while a late night shower, before hitting the pillow may help you fall asleep quickly and easily but did you know of the dangers lurking in your bathroom while taking a shower?

woman in shower 
Dangers lurking while you shower
 deadly shower curtains Looks like even a mundane routine like taking a shower poses a health hazard. And the culprits could be shower curtains or the shower head. It has been found that germs like Methylobacter and Sphingomonas thrive in warm, wet environments, which is why they like showering with us and their favourite hiding places are plastic shower curtains. Dr Pace, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Colorado after testing several plastic shower curtains, including his own, discovered that millions of microbes line every square inch of the curtain, with 80% of them being those bugs methylobacter and sphingomonas, which are potentially harmful. But what makes these bugs a bigger menace is that they can form an aerosol and rise into the air, so we'll end up breathing in these potentially harmful bacteria  that could make us feel nauseous, flu-like, and exhausted. These types of organisms feed on skin cells and other organic material that sloughs off as you shower.

To tackle this problem, you have to make the environment less inviting for infectious agents by pulling the curtain closed all the way after you are finished. This will keep the bacteria from thriving in the folds of the plastic.You should clean these plastic shower curtains every week, first by washing it with water, then by spraying a disinfectant cleaner, allowing it to sit for about 5 minutes and then wiping it down. You can then dry it in an open space for an hour or two. A better option is to stop using plastic shower curtains and use  fabric ones instead. To clean fabric curtains, toss it in the washer every month using the hottest water you can and bleach, says Dr. Pace.

It's pathetic that mostly plastic and Poly vinyl chloride, popularly known as PVC curtains are used as shower curtains. Most of these curtains are labeled as highly toxic. Some people even like the smell emanating from these new curtains; they even go to the extent of sniffing these new curtains. Little do they know of the toxicity associated with these curtains and the reasons why a  new PVC shower curtain smells the way it does. A study issued by an environmental advocacy group called the Center for Health, Environment and Justice has found that the “new shower curtain smell” is caused, in fact, by the emission of several toxic chemicals.These PVC shower curtains, contain at least seven toxic substances, methyl isobutyl ketone, toluene, ethylbenzene, acetophenone phenol, xylene, and cumene that are considered to be air pollutants. Some of these substances could apparently cause damage to the central nervous, reproductive and respiratory systems. Apparently a study has also found that PVC curtains release these toxic chemicals into the air for about 28 days. So try and choose safe shower curtains.

Another study has found that even shower heads harbour potentially harmful bacteria, which mostly feed on the organic compounds that form on plastic. Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder after examining shower heads taken from different cities, discovered that these contained mycobacterium avium.  Exposure to Mycobacterium avium, though not considered to be harmful to most people, could be risky for anyone with a weakened immune system, including the elderly and some pregnant women said the researchers. In fact, small amounts of mycobacterium avium are often found in tap water, but the real danger comes when it builds up in a shower head and then becomes airborne when the shower is turned on. According to Dr. Charles Daley, of National Jewish Hospital in Denver, these bacteria can cause lung disease. Dr Jennifer Ashton from the University of Colarado advises to use an all-metal shower head as metal shower heads are thought to be more effective at reducing the buildup of so-called "bio-film." Also, she said that people should run the water a couple of minutes before getting in, because some of the water washes out some of the bacteria. A low pressure spray is also a good idea, she said, because the bacteria won't be sprayed all over the shower.

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  1. unknown11:22 AM

    Taking a shower shouldn’t be harmful to your health. It is inexcusable that toxic shower curtains are being sold to consumers, especially when cost-effective alternatives are available

  2. Anonymous11:23 AM

    You should avoid vinyl shower curtains and instead choose curtains made of cotton, polyester, or nylon.

  3. you can use simple curtains. these are cheap and available in many beautiful colors and designs.


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